MERIDIAN — This year’s Dairy Days will include all the events the community has come to expect and enjoy — pancakes, a petting zoo and dairy animal competitions — with one big change. The parade will be held on Saturday instead of Friday.
Dairy Days is a local tradition dating back 90 years.
Traditionally held on the Friday of the festival, the change was prompted by the increase of traffic in the Meridian area, said Hans Bruijn, president of the Dairy Board.
The festival kicks off on Wednesday, June 19, with the 70th Annual Meridian Dairy Days Princess Pageant at 7 p.m. Thursday’s schedule includes the Old MacDonald Farm petting zoo, a pancake feed at 4:30 p.m. and a carnival starting at 5 p.m.
Friday’s events include vendors in Storey Park, Old MacDonald Farm, the Rainier Carnival, volleyball tournaments, live music and a monster truck show, which starts at 7 p.m.
Saturday morning starts with the mile-long Dairy Days Fun Run at 8 a.m. and the 5K race at 8:30 a.m., followed by the 4H and FFA Dairy Cattle and Goat Show starting at 9 a.m.
“That’s our main focus,” Bruijn said. “It’s the start for a lot of these kids for their show season. We like to have a judge that educates them as much as judges them so they’re ready for the next step, like the Canyon County Fair and Western Idaho Fair.”
One of the students who will participate in the show is Nani McKague, a rising junior at Meridian High School, and the reserve grand champion showman at last year’s Dairy Days. Starting as a child with a goat named BBQ, she grew to love raising and showing animals. She has taken part in the Treasure Valley Dairy Heifer Replacement Program for three years and will be showing two Holstein dairy heifers, Jackie and Frankie, at this year’s Dairy Days.
“I am excited for what this year has to bring,” Nani said in an email interview.
Also on Saturday will be a pool bash, more volleyball, the Old MacDonald Farm, carnival and the main event, the Real Dairy Parade at 6 p.m., followed by fireworks at dusk.
“Probably the most exciting event of the week for myself and the rest of the court is the parade,” said Sydney Plum, last year’s Dairy Days Princess. “We love to see the whole community come out to support the dairy industry.”
The parade is the largest of its kind in Idaho, Bruijn said, with anywhere from 25,000 to 30,000 people attending. Some of the parade participants, such as Chobani and Darigold, will be handing out dairy treats like yogurt and chocolate milk.
“It’s a little different from other parades,” Bruijn said.
Dairy Days, which had its beginnings in 1929 with the opening of the creamery in Meridian, is organized to help the community remember the heritage of dairies in the community.
“There aren’t that many dairies left in Meridian,” Bruijn said. “There are two or three left with a Meridian address, when there used to be a couple hundred.”
When Bruijn arrived in the area in 1981, most of the dairies were small, 100-cow operations.
“If you start losing track of your heritage, you may get a little lost in the future,” he said. “Regardless of the area becoming more and more urban, agriculture is still the backbone of Idaho. It remains consistent. Tech companies come and go, but we still all have to eat. People are getting more and more removed from the farms, so I think it’s important to keep it up so they have a way to go back and remember.”
For a full schedule of Dairy Days events, visit dairydays.org.